Montreal, July 16, 2006 No 184




Randy Hillier lives in Carleton Place, Ontario, and is President of the Ontario Landowners Association.




by Randy Hillier


          If the current trend continues and there is no reason to think otherwise , farming in the province of Ontario will soon be a relic of the past and a practice played out not in the fields, but in memory only. Years from now when the last family farm is bankrupt and corporate factory farms have finished monopolizing the industry, people will look back and wonder if the destruction was avoidable. For farmers, this is the critical moment when they must ask themselves the tough questions and be prepared to accept the painful answers. What went wrong? Who is responsible? Can the problems be fixed? These questions have been willfully avoided but necessity demands answers.


Beggars on tractors

          There are three types of farmers in Ontario. The first group is blind to the storm clouds above; they remain ignorant of their surroundings and never venture far afield or voice their concerns. The second group realizes the economic dangers and understands that drastic solutions must be made to save the industry. The third group also recognizes the dangers; however their long-term view is fixed on their mailbox and a government cheque. This group poses the greatest threat to farming, as they are blind to the cause or remedy. Their welfare views hurt everyone, not just themselves.

          When looking at what went wrong in agriculture, the answer is simple. The third group relinquished not only their property, but all farmers' property. They traded away their god given right to be masters of their own destiny to grow, market and process their product, for false security and safety. However, they foolishly believed they could keep prosperity and the rewards of their ambition. Many marketing and commodity boards now have absolute power to control the buying, selling, and production of commodities.

          Farmers also sold out their future and freedom by accepting government regulations that dictate every use and activity on the farm. Farmers unknowingly surrendered themselves to a mild form of slavery, and have become slaves in the truest sense of the word. They are slaves to their farm groups and to the corporate monopolies that control them, and are caged by the regulations of safety and security. Slaves are never self-reliant, free, nor prosperous.

          Who is responsible? The answer is clear. Under the leadership of the General Farm organizations and the commodity and marketing boards, farm profits have plummeted. These organizations created an economic system which is devoid of competition, which helped to monopolize food processing. These groups planted the socialist seeds to eliminate risks in the marketplace, and are now undertakers at the farmer's funeral procession.

"Every year is the same. The government gives farmers money, and the trade off is more and costly regulations that drain the fields of wealth. Restrictions on land use and practices, rising costs to comply, and greater public ownership over private lands is the cost of begging."

          As long as the purchase of commodities remains monopolized, and they continue to receive government dollars, these organizations will continue to destroy farming. To hide their incompetent leadership these groups encourage perennial migrations and toothless farm rallies to grovel at the foot of Queens Park and Ottawa, begging for more money, and new regulations. Six billion this year; how many billons next year? But money will not help them, money is never free, and beggars aren't respected, nor have a long life.

The cost of begging

          Every year is the same. The government gives farmers money, and the trade off is more and costly regulations that drain the fields of wealth. Restrictions on land use and practices, rising costs to comply, and greater public ownership over private lands is the cost of begging. In such a flawed economic system, no amount of money can fix the problem; it only propagates further decline. Very soon, the cost of farming will outweigh the benefits and the loss in income will be insurmountable. This is a hard truth which is slapping farmers in the face and though some realize it, many others do not. The farm organizations and the marketing boards have become self-serving organizations and farming has collapsed as a result.

          We have seen these welfare farmers during the past few weeks on Parliament Hill, and at food and fuel terminals, in what was a shameful exercise of mock protest. Those who pretended to blockade food, and fuel distribution, while allowing shipments must have felt humiliation. This half-hearted protest to solve the problems on the farm was in fact no attempt at all. It was a coward's way of disguising inaction. The welfare class is now on strike, and outstretched hands hold up their picket lines.

          This demand for money rings hollow in the ears of politicians and the public who see this threat is an ineffectual tea-cup protest. The continuing demand for more money and more handouts is the same welfare strategy which has brought farming to the brink of collapse. Those farmers who parade their tractors in search of public money with the yellow signs that read "farmers feed cities" are not the victims they claim to be, but the authors of their own destruction. The urban politicians in Ottawa and Queens Park could not be more thrilled with this demand for money, because this means farmers are willing to be bought and paid for, with the scraps of governments' largess.

          In the case of agriculture, what politicians really fear and respect are farmers who reject government handouts and who would never lower themselves to being bribed with their own money. Nor would these farmers carry yellow signs which read, "Farmers feed cities," for under this thin veneer, the real message is "Give us more money." Rather, the farmers who understand that the root problems afflicting agriculture must be solved first and that yearly government handouts are not the solution but part of the problem, have rallied around a red and white sign which reads: "This Land is Our Land; Back Off Government."

          The financial ruin on Ontario farms is undeniable, but it is not a tragedy. A victim, who by no fault of his own is driven by fate, or the malicious actions of others, into inevitable destruction, characterizes tragedy. Yet in farming there is no victim, because many farmers embrace this poisoned package of corrupt management boards, a bill of government lies and false promises, and follow cowardly accredited organizations. They have committed economic suicide, and now demand public health-care to revive them.

          The farmers who participate in the "One Voice/Farmers Feed Cities" program are sowing their future with the seeds of social and economic failure. The crop they reap will not be rewarding, but one of destitution and overwhelming guilt. Follow the yellow signs on the road. The path of proven failure awaits.